After three months of successful service, Pikolo at 3418 Avenue du Parc marked its official opening with a celebratory fête last Wednesday. The occasion featured an in-house DJ and white balloons, along with a crowd that was even larger than usual. Despite the rush, the service was characteristically swift and the atmosphere was warm.
Owner Marie-eve is often behind the bar, ready to tell you about what’s brewing. The first time I stepped in, the shot of the day ($2.75) was a honey-processed Panama that boasted considerable crema and a multifaceted flavour profile that delighted the tongue; no scorched beans or dishwater swill here. The café filtre ($2) is as masterful as the espresso, needing no cream or sugar to please the palate—though if that’s not your cup of java, all the amenities, including soy milk and brown sugar, are available on the bar. There are also two self-service jugs of cool, filtered water that offer refreshment between espressos; one jug is routinely flavoured with cucumber slices.
In addition to their espresso and café filtre, Pikolo offers macchiato, cappuccino, latte, and its smaller signature “Pikolo latte,” which tasted velvety and rich, even with soy milk. Each latte is adorned with a fern leaf design, a humble but skillful nod to latte art without obeisance to the trend’s full measure of extravagance.
This conscientious minimalism suits Pikolo’s interior aesthetic, which combines faintly industrial burnished steel accents and exposed bulbs in its light fixtures with pale wood furnishings. The chairs and tables are comfortable and well-spaced; the open concept is embraced by high ceilings and ample natural lighting afforded by the large street-facing window. Shaped like a bowling alley, as so many of Montreal’s shops and houses are, Pikolo nevertheless makes good use of its narrow spacing with wall-aligned seating and a few extra sets of tables and chairs in a raised mezzanine at back. The view from the mezzanine is the best in the bar, affording coffee-sippers and home workers a view of the action behind the counter, and the colorful patrons sitting below. The soundtrack is as mixed and appealing as the crowd itself, featuring Bedouin Soundclash one day and Phoenix the next.
Pikolo also offers baked goods in the form of croissants, muffins, and more, each batch made locally and provided to Marie-eve before they’ve hit the oven so she can bake them herself. That way, they’re warm and fresh when they’re served. In case you’ve had too much of a good thing and feel the caffeine trembles starting, Pikolo also has a wide selection of smoothies ($4.75) and teas ($2). The plum oolong is especially delicious, served in a tetsubin, a Japanese cast-iron pot. Enjoy your tea and pore over some of the many industry magazines available at the front rack: BeanScene, Fresh Cup, and others.
All of the little details in Pikolo, from its ambience, and the approachability of its owner and her patrons, to its sublimely stellar espresso, invite one to get comfortable and stay a while rather than sip on the run. But when it’s finally time to leave, you can take home bags of beans roasted in Calgary by Phil and Sebastian, or get a last cup to go.
This gem in the caffeine-starved student district is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.